Sean Spence, Editor-in-chief of Chicago Fire SB Nation site, Hot Time in Old Town & Bryan Weigel of Cincinnati Soccer Talk exchanged some questions about Wednesday’s US Open Cup match between FC Cincinnati and the Chicago Fire. Make sure to check out HotTimeInOldTown.com for more information regarding the Chicago Fire as well as Bryan’s answers to Sean’s questions. We hope you enjoy his short preview before tonight’s match.
1. Do you expect Bastian Schweinsteiger to play?
You know, this time last week I’d have answered this by roasting up a big batch of ‘No,’ and then serving it with some ‘No F*****’ Way’ sauce, but now … Basti was pulled early for the first time all season against Orlando City. And Dax is with the USA, so a Juninho/Basti tempo-control double pivot is what we’ve seen from the Fire when that’s been the case this season.
Even with all that, I’m guessing that Basti dresses but doesn’t start. The Fire have defensive midfielders stacked up in the depth chart at right back, and it would be a simple matter to start Drew Conner at right back and slide Matt Polster into his natural position in the middle behind a more attacking Juninho. That duo would present rather more pedestrian challenges to Cincinnati than the mind-control time-lord machinations of the usual Schweinsteiger/McCarty pairing. So that’s my prediction: Basti will be rested unless they’ve seen something in the film that worries them. I’d expect him to start on the bench. If he starts, take it as a measure of respect – he watched the St. Louis game from Chicago.
2. Any young prospects that we could expect to see Wednesday?
I certainly hope so! The Fire has some really promising kids. A few of them are playing for Tulsa in USL – you’ve probably come across Joey Calistri, right? But those guys are cup-tied to Tulsa, so we won’t see them Wednesday. You probably will see (barring injury):
– Daniel Johnson, 20, a two-footed attacking/wing midfielder with a lot of flair, decent pace, excellent in combination. Georgia kid who spent a few years in the West Ham academy. Was in line for rotation minutes after impressing in substitute appearances, but injuries have set him back a bit.
– Djordje Mihalovic, 18, a deep-lying playmaker. A homegrown player who was pivotal in the Fire academy’s 2016 U18 champions. Has above-average vision and is excellent at releasing runners with one-touch balls into space. Can still occasionally get overwhelmed by the speed of play at the professional level.
– Stefan Cleveland: 23, Keeper. Played well against Saint Louis FC, to my eye, but I don’t feel confident scouting keepers like I do field players.
You can also expect a smattering of guys who haven’t gotten a ton of regular-season minutes because the first XI has been lights-out – Drew Conner, Jonathan Campbell, Juninho, Arturo Alvarez and Patrick Doody.
3. Who will have to step up in the absence of Dax McCarty?
I’d like to bounce off the fact that the original question read ‘in the absences of Dax McCarty’ – because I think, as Red Bulls are finding out, that removing Dax doesn’t create an absence, it creates absences. Who will drive the team ever forward? Who seals off all the countering lanes? Who marks out the trequartista? Who demands? Who calls to account? Dax’s ability to get into a really surly head-space yet still be a credible leader on the field is a remarkable emotional balancing act, and no one will fill that role, really. Even Basti, for all his quality, reputation, and expectations, is still just too nice a guy to feel comfortable berating dudes on the pitch.
In terms of playing his role in the formation, I’d expect that Polster will slide into the middle. He brings a lot of energy and physicality but is a clear step below McCarty’s quality in possession – not that he’s awful, mind. As recently as November he was the best central midfielder on the Fire.
Make sure to head over to HotTimeInOldTown.com for our companion piece on FC Cincinnati.